What’s scarier than a childhood icon actually being the Grim Reaper in a red coat?
Santa Claus. Old Saint Nick. The Man In Red. This jolly beacon of Christmas joy goes by many names and is meant to spread Christmas cheer. But if you think about it, he’s really just staging millions of home invasions every year. Think about it: he comes down the chimney, unannounced, eats your baked goods, and leaves. Granted he does leave presents under the tree, but what a weird way to go about it, right?
Maybe I’m overthinking it here, but Santa is terrifying if you really think about the concept for too long. And I’m not the only one who thinks Santa is ripe for the horror pickings. He’s used a vehicle of murder and destruction throughout the holiday horror subgenre. What’s scarier than a childhood icon actually being the Grim Reaper in a red coat? Not much, I’d wager.
We took a look at the expansive world of holiday horror and picked some of the nastiest Santa Clauses out there. Be warned: we aren’t responsible for any holiday anxieties that may result after you read this list.
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Silent Night, Deadly Night is a tried and true holiday classic with one of the best rage-filled Santa Clauses we’ve seen on screen. Young Billy witnesses the murder of his parents at the hands of Santa himself. That alone is enough to traumatize a kid for life. But after spending years in an abusive orphanage, Billy doesn’t live a life of peace. His PTSD causes him to have a breakdown and he follows in the footsteps of the figure that killed his parents. So, he gets himself a Santa suit and goes on a rampage using a series of brutal, yet creative, weapons. We’re talking boxcutters, axes, Christmas lights, and even deer antlers.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
Sometimes Santa Claus isn’t just a man in a red suit and big hat. Sometimes he’s a children-eating figure from Scandinavian folklore that’s been hidden underground for centuries. In the 2010 film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, Santa is just that. And of course, greedy capitalists come to dig up the real Santa. But what they discover is something nasty that wants to decimate reindeer herds and young children. Not to mention his horde of nude elves who sprint across the frozen ground like demons from hell. Everything you know about Santa is made perverse in this film, which makes it all the more entertaining.
Dial Code Santa Claus (aka Deadly Games)
This hidden gem is my personal favorite on the list. Dial Code Santa is a French holiday slasher that came back in the spotlight when Vinegar Syndrome restored it. The film follows a young boy who lives in a massive house with his mother and elderly grandfather. He’s a lonely kid who uses all of that square footage to make booby traps and stage elaborate imaginary wars. His cleverness comes in handy when an intruder dressed as Santa enters their home with murderous intent. This is like Home Alone turned up to 11. Definitely add this to your holiday watchlist ASAP.
Look, we all know someone obsessed with Christmas. They’re the person who has the tree up before Thanksgiving, changes out all of their decor for tablecloths and towels emblazoned with snowmen, and are just constantly imbued with the holiday spirit. And good for them, honestly. But in Christmas Evil, Harry takes a love for Christmas to the next level. He lives and breathes the holiday, especially after a traumatizing experience involving oral sex, Santa, and Harry’s mom. It’s then that he discovered Santa isn’t real, so he makes it his life’s work to make toys for all the good girls and boys. He’s strange, but his heart is in the right place. But when he suffers a nervous breakdown, he puts down his toymaking tools in favor of murderous weapons. What ensues in one nasty killing spree.
Pro-wrestler Bill Goldberg plays a buff-as-hell Santa here, so you know it’s going to be a wild ride. Here, Santa is a demon who was a virgin birth from Santa, so he may be the Antichrist? He’s defeated in a celestial curling match by an angel. As a result, Santa has to be nice for 1,000 years and deliver presents. But, those 1,000 years are up and it’s time to slay. A rampage ensures, including a Christmas tree topper thrown like a ninja star and Fran Drescher getting drowned in egg nog. See? Told you it was wild.
Gather ’round children, to hear the story of Sinterklaas, a Dutch interpretation of Saint Nicholas. In this Dutch film, Sinterklaas is the angry ghost of an evil bishop who was slaughtered by townsfolk for his dastardly deeds. Now, on every Sinterklaas celebration that falls on a full moon, he comes back to haunt the town where he was murdered. He uses his sharpened staff to slaughter with reckless abandon and his evil minions to kidnap small children. This is a little different than the typical Santa slasher, but it provides a fascinating, and darkly comedic, twist on the killer Christmas icon.